Sexual Violence on Campus

My friend was sexually assaulted on campus last August.

When I heard the story from a mutual friend of ours last Friday afternoon, I felt a number of strong emotions ranging from paralyzing shock over the details to fierce anger at the perpetrator to a saddening feeling of numbness and bewilderment.

However, there is one emotion that is prevailing in my mind right now, temporarily shoving the shock, anger and numbness aside.

That emotion is perplexing confusion.

Looking at Colgate’s sexual crime policies in our Student Handbook and the school’s publication of resources for victims of sexual crimes, even a six-year old would tell you that what we currently have is incredibly inadequate. I love Colgate, but why would this school fail so horribly in this regard? I can’t answer that question, but after looking at the problems for a week, I do have some solutions.

First of all, the resources for sexual crime victims are horribly publicized and inaccurate.

Props go to The Wellness Initiative’s “Keep it Sexy, Colgate” drive for clearly and coherently publicizing on its section of the Colgate website over 10 on and off-campus resources for people who are sexually assaulted and giving other useful information, but why do I not see this list elsewhere? The online Student Handbook has a list of resources for students that have questions about alcohol or drugs. Why don’t we have a list for students who have been attacked, or at the very least, a rape crisis hotline for someone to call in that same Handbook? Furthermore, this updated list of resources should be put in everyone’s mailbox in the beginning of the year as reference. Also, some of the resources I see listed are inaccurate. The Student Handbook claims that someone that has just been a victim of sexual misconduct or harassment can call a Sexual Crisis Resource Center (SCRC) counselor. SCRC does not exist anymore. The SCRC is also listed as a resource in the Campus Safety Handbook given out last term, as well as Men Advocating for Change and the Sexual Issues Group. The latter two also do not exist, according to a Maroon-News article written about sexual assault last February. Lastly, why doesn’t Colgate produce a set document on its website listing a clear and coherent sexual misconduct and harassment policy, with a list of all these resources? Other schools have one, so why not us? It wouldn’t hurt to have that something like that.

In regards to the sexual misconduct policy, what we have been shown publicly is simply too broad, which is ironic given that our policy is quite small compared to other schools. In short, currently a student, faculty or staff member can be charged with sexual misconduct or sexual harassment. The sexual misconduct policy as listed in the Handbook is a six-line umbrella definition that can essentially mean anything. This leaves me more confused, and wondering what the hell the Board of Trustees was thinking when they hastily wrote this in 1991. So a person that commits a rape on campus is thrown into the same category, hypothetically, as a person that smacks someone on the rear end at the Jug? That isn’t right. What we need to do is further clarify and give more details to our sexual misconduct policy. We must also add another stage to the sexual crimes that can be committed: sexual assault. Colgate needs to define any and all sexual crime behaviors it deems to be severe enough to warrant suspension or expulsion, put those into the sexual assault category and then come out with a public statement that all students who perform such behaviors are given an automatic suspension on the spot and subject to expulsion.

Now why do I bring up the automatic suspension as a penalty? Partially in response to the tragic Oak Drive accident nine years ago, Colgate instituted an automatic suspension penalty for all students that get a DWI or DUI, hoping to deter students from making such decisions. In an article written to students two school years ago, Assistant Dean of Students Corey Landstrom wrote a Maroon-News article stating that aside from a rash of DWI’s on campus in the 2007-08 school year, Colgate had seen “a significant reduction of DWI arrests” since instituting the auto-suspension DWI policy. Well, if an automatic suspension deters something as serious as a DWI, then I see no reason why we shouldn’t publicize and institute an automatic suspension policy for sexual assault.

The act of sexual assault, misconduct or harassment devastatingly hurts a person, and scars him or her for life. Where are Colgate’s priorities when it fails to help serve these people in numerous ways? I don’t know, but I do know that we need to take a proactive approach in order to right previous wrongs. But right now, I am still left with the same feeling that I’ve had for an entire week: complete and utter confusion.

Contact Paul Kasabian at [email protected]